Chantakites: Linguistic analysis

By: | Post date: 2010-03-01 | Comments: No Comments
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As I promised, I’m going to walk through the linguistic particularities of Manuel Chantakites’ letter. This is pretty usual in the philological editions of Early Modern texts: there’ll be a couple of pages in the preface enumerating linguistic oddities, working their way up from phonology through to syntax (and not getting far beyond syntax, or a 19th century understanding of linguistics). To Greek speakers this may well be obvious—no edition would go into this much detail. But particularly because of the Cretan dialect involved, I might as well go all the way through.

In the following, CSMG = Contemporary Standard Modern Greek. The sentence references to the text (repeated at the end) are given in brackets.

Phonology: There are a lot of final n’s, as was the case throughout transcriptions of Modern Greek until the past century. This does not necessarily mean they were pronounced, or they were not. CSMG has dropped a lot of final n’s, although there is still variability and debate about it. But final /n/ is dropped in αν “if” before consonants, where CSMG would retain it (7, 8, 18).

Final euphonic /n/ has extended analogically to infinitives, giving the innovating είσταιν (7) “to be” alongside είσται (9) (Classical εἶσθαι, with the regular vernacular sound change /sθ/ > /st/.)

πίκρα “bitterness”, πικραίνω “to embitter” has been metathesised to πρίκα, πρικαίνω (2, 3, 4). That kind of metathesis is common (/#pr/ is easier than /-kr-/); I’ve even heard αρθιμός for αριθμός. CSMG has done away with these by etymological spelling.

γλήγορος “fast” for γρήγορος < ἐγρήγορος “alert” is common in non-standardised Greek. By contrast, the etymological αδέλφια, αδελφήν “siblings, sister” (13, 14) have not shifted to the Modern αδέρφια, αδερφή.

Clitic pronouns can have euphonic final /e/: τηνε “her” (to avoid final /n/ before a consonant) (2). In CSMG, that is now restricted to song lyrics, but it is still a prominent feature of Cretan.

/evo/ verbs display an epenthetic gamma: γυρεύγεις for γυρεύεις “you seek” (2). This is routine in non-standardised variants of Modern Greek.

Some of the routine aphaeresis of Modern Greek has not happened in this text, although as usual it’s hard to know whether that’s because the spelling is being archaic, or the change hadn’t happened yet. So επρίκανες for πίκρανες “you embittered” (2), εδική for δική “proper” (3), ωσάν for σάν “as, when” (2), οπού for που “relativiser” (3). (But the Modern Cretan for που is απού, so the initial vowel was retained.) OTOH, νοίκια > ενοίκια “rents” (2), και εθάρρουν (4) vs. και θάρρουν (9).

By contrast, the text shows some instances of και “and” with the same initial vowel, οκαί (2, 8, 18). This was a short-lived innovation in Early Modern Greek, and it showed that forms like οπού and που coexisted—so that οκαί::και was remodelled by analogy to οπού::που.

Ancient χρυσοχόος “goldsmith” has been rendered as χρουσοχός (20): the variant χρουσός for χρυσός is entrenched in unstandardised Greek, and the hiatus of /oos/ has been eliminated. CSMG has reintroduced the ancient form.

Morphology: The stressed augment of ήμαθα “I learned” (16), ήκαμες “you did” (9), and ήλεγες “you were saying” (16, 17) are /i/ rather than /e/. The spelling analyses it as a “double augment”, which occasionally turns up in Ancient Greek (mostly because the verb had a variant with an initial vowel already.) The /i/ augment has become regular in Modern Eastern Cretan, and this seems to be the start of it; it is still not regular, given έκαμα “I did” (3), έμαθα “I learned” (5). The augment of ήκουσα “I heard” (2) (Ancient ἤκουσα, Modern άκουσα) should be interpreted the same way, rather than as an archaic survival.

έναι (19) for “is” is transitional between ἔνι “is in”, which is common in Early Modern Greek and underlies Cypriot έν, and CSMG είναι, which has levelled the stem to the other present tense persons (είμαι, είσαι, είναι).

εθάρρουν “I trusted” (4) retains the ancient imperfect ending, as does Modern Cretan. CSMG uses the Northern Greek ending -ούσα.

The genitive κυρού of κύρης > κύριος “master = father” (21) can be explained through the occasional Byzantine variant κυρός.

The infinitive survives only in restricted roles—here, only in the future construction θέλω + Infinitive (7, 8, 11). This future construction is contrasted with the literal meaning of θέλω “I want”, which takes the subjunctive (18, 19).

The future construction of CSMG, θα + Subjunctive, has two antecedents in Early Modern Greek: either Conjugated θέλω + Infinitive Verb, or Infinitive θέλει + Conjugated Subjunctive (θέλω έλθει(ν), θέλει έλθω “I will come”). The CSMG construction comes from the second structure: θέλει έλθω > θέλει να έλθω (with the verb dependency explicitly as a subjunctive) > θε να έλθω > θα έρθω. Modern Cretan retains the first structure, with the main verb preposed: έλθει(ν) θέλω > να έρθει θέλω (with the infinitive reinterpreted as a subjunctive). Chantakites has the earlier infinitival construction, both in normal ordering (θέλω είσταιν “I will be” 7) and with the characteristically Cretan preposing (έλθει θέλω ” I will come” 8, εγνωρίσει θέλω “I will know” 10)

The conditional construction, which parallels the future but uses past tenses on the main verb, is also present: ήθελεν είσται “would be” (9).

Lexicon: The letter uses πατέρας for “father” (1, 2, 16): it’s the reflex of ancient πατήρ, and the neutral CSMG word. The marginal note to his wife at the end uses the Cretan word κύρης, “lord” (21). That suggests Manuel is being formal and aloof when addressing his father. The same goes for μητέρα “mother” (1) vs. μάννα “mum” (21).

Ξέρω “I know” is in its older form, ηξεύρω (< ἐξεύρω “I find out”) (2, 16).

Σώνει “it saves” has the older meaning “it suffices” here (CSMG would used φτάνει) (3).

Θαρρώ “I have courage; I trust” has come to mean “I think, I reckon” in CSMG. The letter illustrates how this may have happened (4): “I have courage in you” > “I trust in you” > “I trust in you to make this happen” > “I trust that this will happen” > “I reckon that this will happen”.

καύχα “girlfriend” (9) is no longer in use.

τυχαίνω “happen, happen by accident” (9) is used to mean “be appropriate”.

άματα “when” (4) is a variant of άμα “when, as soon as” < ἅμα “together”. The -τα suffix occurs with other Early Modern adverbs: αντίκρυ-τα “opposite”, δίχωσ-τα “separately”, είμη-τα “otherwise”, and is an analogy with other adverbs ending in -τα (έπειτα “afterwards”, ανεθάρρετα “bravely”).

φλογοτομάς (4) is a folk-etymological recast of φλεβοτομάς “you cut your veins” after φλογο- “flame”. The emotive context may have influenced this.

μηδέν “nothing” is used for μην “not (subjunctive), lest” (4). This corresponds to the use of ουδέν “nothing” instead of ου “not (indicative)” (9), which has resulted in CSMG δεν “not” (17) by aphaeresis.

CSMG οι δικοί μου “my own ones” means “my relatives”; this expression is already present as τους εδικούς μου όλους “all my relatives” (15). The letter rearranges Det Adj N Poss to Det Adj Poss N for emphasis, as CSMG allows: τους καλούς μου εδικούς και τους καλούς μου φίλους “my good friends and my good relatives” (11). But while CSMG allows τους καλούς μου φίλους, it does not allow *τους καλούς μου δικούς. This shows that οι δικοί μου has since been lexicalised, and the possessive can no longer be separated from the noun.

Dialect lexicon: πολλά is Cretan for πολύ “very” (2, 13, 14); the neuter plural used as an adverb is in fact the regular formation in CSMG (e.g. καλά “well”), and the standard language is archaic in retaining the neuter singular for πολύ.

Κατέχω “I possess” has supplanted ξέρω “I know” in Cretan; both are used here (οκαί κατέχεις καλά “and you know well”) (3).

τίβοτας (16) is Cretan for τίποτε “anything”; it has developed in Modern Cretan into τίβοτσι.

τεσταμέντο (19) is of course an Italian loanword; Modern Cretan used the Turkish loanword βασιγιέτι (vasiyet).

χέρα “hand” (20) is the expected reflex of Ancient χείρ; it looks in CSMG like an augmentative (contrasted with χέρι < Ancient diminutive χέριον), but is in fact the normal Cretan word.

Syntax: The surname is treated as an apposition: τον Μανοήλ τον Χαντακίτην, “the Manuel the Chantakites” (1). That is a feature of colloquial Greek to this day, and it shows that First Name–Surname is not treated as a single unit.

Indirect objects appear in the genitive, as is common in southern Greek dialect and CSMG. This extends to full nouns, as in γυρεύγεις της νύφης σου νοίκια “you seek rents [to] your daughter-in-law” (2). While the phrase is still possible in colloquial Greek, it is on the decline: for full nouns the standard language prefers explicit prepositions, in this case γυρεύεις από τη νύφη σου νοίκια “you seek rents from your daughter-in-law”. The other instance, πέψε το του κυρού μου και της μάννας μου “send it to my father and mother” (21) sounds less strange in CSMG.

Cretan often uses genitive (= dative) indirect objects where CSMG uses accusative direct objects; this is regarded as an archaism. An instance here is ευχαριστώ σου πολλά (10), “I thank you a lot”, where CSMG has σε ευχαριστώ πολύ.

Clitic object pronouns moved from postverbal in Ancient Greek to preverbal in CSMG. There is a cline across Modern dialects as to how prevalent this is, and Cretan allows both placements. This text reflects that: πολλά με επρίκανες “you have embittered me a lot” (2), τούτον σου θυμίζω “I remind you of this” (7), but ευχαριστώ σου πολλά “I thank you a lot” (10).

I’ve already posted about the strange-looking use of να in ήκουσα να γυρεύγεις της νύφης σου νοίκια “I heard that you were seeking rents from your daughter-in-law” (2), and ήλεγες να εβγάλεις την νύφην σου “you were saying that you would kick your daughter-in-law out” (16).

One of the more distinctive features of this text is the use of και “and” to introduce not just new sentences, but verb complements. Again, this is a colloquial feature of Modern Greek (and other Balkan languages), largely curtailed in the standard, which would use ότι instead. So: κατέχεις καλά και μεγάλην πρίκαν της έκαμα εγώ “you know well that I have embittered her greatly” (3); ήμαθα και ήλεγες “I have learned that you have been saying” (16)

The letter uses the counterfactual conditional construction αν A όχι και (αν) B “if A, no and (if) B” (18), or όχι και (αν) B αμέ αν A “no and (if) B, but if A” (9), meaning “even if A, let alone if B”. A is the counterfactual, exaggerated condition; B is the condition that actually applies, and which A exaggerates: “even if she were my whore, let alone my wife”, “even if I had thousands of thousands, let alone what little I do have”. This not survived into Modern Greek, which uses όχι on its own to introduce the actual condition as a small clause, without its own verb, and uses the explicit contrastive αλλά (ούτε) να “but (not even) that (= if)” to introduce the exaggerated counterfactual. So it is closer to όχι και (αν) B αμέ αν A as in (9):

  • ότι όχι και ήτονε γυναίκα μου, αμέ αν ήθελεν είσται καύχα μου (lit. “that no and she were my wife, but if she would be my whore”) > όχι γυναίκα μου, αλλά ούτε πουτάνα μου να ήταν (lit. no my wife, but not even my whore if she were”), “even if she were my whore, let alone my wife”
  • αν έχω χίλιες χιλιάδες δουκάτα, όχι και α δεν έχω τίβοτας > ??αν έχω όχι τίποτα, αλλά και χιλιάδες δουκάτα “If I have not nothing, but thousands of ducats”

Moreover, the Modern expression is explicitly counterfactual, so (18) would in fact be αν είχα όχι τίποτα, αλλά και χιλιάδες δουκάτα, “If I had not nothing…” The older construction is not as fixed. Consistent with the use of αν rather than subjunctive να in the counterfactual, the old expression allows a conditional tense: αν ήθελεν είσται “if she would be”, Modern αν θα ήταν, να ήταν.

ωσάν “as” is used anaphorically (5): έκαμες ωσάν ήθελες, “you did as you wanted [to do]”. In Modern Greek, σαν cannot be used anaphorically, and όπως “as” would be used instead.

The ancient use of genitive after prepositions survives, possibly still in colloquial use, possibly as a learnèd construction: από χολής μου πολλής “from my great vexation” (8), ο Θεός μετά σας “God with you” (12). But the latter is a translation of the Ancient ὁ Θεὸς μεθ’ ἡμῶν, and contrasts with the modern με την χέραν μου “with my hand” (20), with its truncated Modern form με.

The expected article is omitted before “hands” in καταφιλώ χέρια της και τα πόδια της “I kiss her hands and feet” (14), though it is used before “feet”. There’s no clear reason for the inconsistency, and I think it a lapse. The omitted article in ωσάν άλλα πράγματα “like (the) other things” (18) is also odd.

The free word order of Και τούτον θέλω το γράμμα “and this i I want the letter i” (19) is unusual for Modern Greek.

Archaisms: Very few, and where you’d expect them. The date is in the dative: μηνί Μαγίω = μηνὶ Μαΐῳ “in the month of May” (22). The archaic δέ “but” has redundantly attached itself to όμως “but” (12), and ομοίως “likewise” also looks formulaic. The addressing of the latter has the formal πατέραν and μητέραν, and also the archaic spelling υιόν [ion] instead of γιον [jon] “son” (1)—though we don’t have a diplomatic transcription, so we don’t know if Manuel would have used a more modern rendering anyway. The reduplicated perfect ανωγεγραμμένος “aforesigned” (20) is formulaic (though contrasted with the dialectal με την χέραν μου “with my hand”).

Discourse: The epistolary command ήξευρε ότι “Know (this), that…” is used a couple of times (2, 16). The modern verb does not have an imperative (*Ξέρε ότι), but its subjunctive equivalent can still be used with the same meaning (να ξέρεις ότι, “you should know that…”)

(1) Εις τον πατέραν μου και την μητέραν μου πολλά προσκυνήματα από εμέναν τον υιόν σας τον Μανοήλ τον Χαντακίτην.

(2) Ήξευρε, πατέρα, ότι πολλά με επρίκανες, ωσάν ήκουσα να γυρεύγεις της νύφης σου νοίκια και να τηνε πρικάνεις. (3) Και σώνει την η εδική μου πρίκα οπού της έκαμα (οκαί κατέχεις καλά και μεγάλην πρίκαν της έκαμα εγώ). (4) Και εθάρρουν εις εσέναν, άματά ’μουν μιαν φοράν το παιδίν σου και εξενιτεύτηκα, να φλογοτομάς το αίμα σου να ποτίζεις την νύφην σου και ποτέ πρίκαν να μηδέν έχει από σένα. (5) Και εγώ έμαθα ότι έκαμες ωσάν ήθελες. (6) Και δοξάζω τον Θεόν. (7) Και τούτον σου θυμίζω, ότι, α δώσει ο Θεός, γλήγορα θέλω είσταιν αυτού· (8) οκαί, αν εμίσσεψα από χολής μου πολλής, έλθει θέλω, α δώσει ο Θεός. (9) Και θάρρουν ότι όχι και ήτονε γυναίκα μου, αμέ αν ήθελεν είσται καύχα μου, ουδέν ετύχαινεν να κάμεις ωσάν μού ’παν ότι ήκαμες. (10) Και ευχαριστώ σου πολλά. (11) Και, α δώσει ο Θεός να έλθω και εγώ αυτού, εγνωρίσει θέλω τους καλούς μου εδικούς και τους καλούς μου φίλους. (12) Όμως δε ο Θεός μετά σας.

† (13) Όλα μου τα αδέλφια πολλά καταφιλώ. (14) Και το περιπλέον την σπλαχνικήν μου αδελφήν την κερ-Αντωνίαν την Μαρμαράδαιναν πολλά καταφιλώ χέρια της και τα πόδια της. (15) Ομοίως και τους γαμπρούς μου και τους εδικούς μου όλους.

† (16) Ήξευρε, πατέρα, ότι ήμαθα και ήλεγες να εβγάλεις την νύφην σου από τα σπίτια της, α μου έρθει τίβοτας. (17) Κ’ ήλεγες το θέλημά σου. (18) Και εγώ λέγω, οκαί αν έχω χίλιες χιλιάδες δουκάτα, όχι και α δεν έχω τίβοτας, θέλω να είναι όλα εδικά της, τόσο σπίτια, ωσάν άλλα πράγματα. (19) Και τούτον θέλω το γράμμα να έναι τεσταμέντο και ό,τι γράφω να έναι στερεόν.

(20) Εγώ ανωγεγραμμένος Μανουήλ ο χρουσοχός έγραψα με την χέραν μου.

(21) († Τούτον, ωσάν το αναγνώσεις, πέψε το του κυρού μου και της μάννας μου.)

† (22) Εγράφη μηνί Μαγίω εις την πρώτην.

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